By Chris Maza
The Planning Board will decide whether or not to approve its Community Development Strategy (CDS) at its Dec. 7 meeting.
The CDS is a necessary step in the town’s pursuit of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds in fiscal year 2018.
Chris Dunphy of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission explained to the board at its Nov. 16 meeting that while the vast majority of CDGB funds are earmarked for so-called “entitlement cities,” such as Boston, Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke, approximately $30 million will be available for smaller cities and towns through a competitive application process, which starts with the CDS.
“It’s something that we have to do to move forward to actually apply for the grant, which is due March 2 ,” Dunphy said.
The CDS outlines the community’s goals relating to, among other things, housing, economic development, land use, social services and historic and cultural resources. It was developed by Dunphy, who evaluated the Agawam’s previous planning efforts, including the town’s Sub-Regional Housing Plan, the Housing Needs Assessment, Community Development Plan, Open Space and Recreation Plan, Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan and Economic Development Plan in order to determine the town’s general priorities.
“We didn’t just make up these things,” Dunphy said. “They were extracted from some of your previous efforts.”
Dunphy said the state recently updated the procedure through which grants are awarded to make it easier for communities like Agawam to take advantage. In the past, there was a tiered system, which made only approximately $2 million available to towns in Agawam’s tier. That system was done away with.
Dunphy noted he helped write the application two years ago that yielded $800,000 in grant funding for Agawam.
“I know there was at least 20 housing properties that received assistance,” he said. “They would have had to qualify based on income levels for new roofs, siding, winterization, lead paint abatement – things to bring housing up to code. A lot of people qualified for the housing rehabilitation program.”
Dunphy noted that the current draft of the document had a “void” when it came to social services. He also suggested the addition of sewer issues in Feeding Hills could be added.